The time is now — What will you do to help ensure a successful COP26?

In the build-up to COP26, we hear from Leeds alumni around the globe who are helping to combat the climate crisis.

In this guest blog post, Simon Kirkland (Management Studies 2006), COP26 Country Coordinator, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, reflects on how he was inspired to act during his time at Leeds, the importance and purpose of COP26, and how we can all help to make it a success.

Simon Kirkland (Management Studies 2006)

One of my fondest memories of being a University of Leeds student was the summer of 2005. I was in between my second and third year studies at the Business School, and there seemed to be so much happening in the UK. England were about to win the Ashes for the first time that I could remember, and London had just won the bid to host the 2012 Olympics. There was tragedy too of course, as the horrific London bombings had taken so many lives.

UK leadership

The most exciting thing for me that summer was the Make Poverty History campaign, which coincided with the UK hosting the G8 in Gleneagles. Like many students at the time, I had my charity wristband, watched Live 8 on the TV and was pleased that the UK had led the world in taking action to help developing countries.

The UK has a proud record of leading similar summits to tackle crucial global issues. In 2013, the UK led in ensuring global action to tackle tax evasion at the 2013 G8 in Loch Erne. And just a few months ago in Carbis Bay in Cornwall, the UK led the G7 to be the first to commit to net zero carbon emissions — which is a really crucial moment in our global fight against climate change.


Just five months after leading the G7 in Carbis Bay, the UK will again be leading a major global summit in Glasgow in November — the crucial COP26 talks. Set against the IPCC’s recent ‘Code Red for Humanity’ report, which showed the urgency of global climate action, COP26 couldn’t be more important. World leaders need to come together to raise ambition in reducing carbon emissions and helping developing countries to respond to the impacts of climate change now.

The man who will be leading these talks in November is the COP President Designate, Alok Sharma. He has set out four goals for the summit:

1. Mitigation. We need to encourage all countries to come forward with more ambitious emissions reduction plans, so that we can keep the 1.5 degrees warming target within reach.

2. Adaptation. We need to do more to help developing countries and small island developing states to respond to the effects of climate change now.

3. Finance. Developed countries made a promise to developing countries at previous COPs to deliver at least $100 billion in climate finance per year. Its crucial that this promise is met.

4. Collaboration. There are some outstanding elements of the Paris Rulebook that need to be agreed. We also all have a role to play in working together to deliver on our climate goals faster.

How will you help in making COP26 a success?

So, the stage is set. The cause couldn’t be more important or urgent, and the objectives are clear and ambitious. But if COP26 is to succeed, all of us will need to play our part — not just the world leaders, politicians and civil servants. There are many ways that we can all make a difference.

If you run or are involved in a small business, I’d encourage you to take a look at, on which there are lots of good ideas on what you can do to help. If you make a commitment to aim for net zero by 2050 on the site, you’ll be listed on the pages and join a community of businesses trying to reduce their emissions and manage their future climate risks.

If you work for a larger business, you could ask the senior management whether the company is part of the Race to Zero, and if not, encourage it to join. Race to Zero is a UN-run global campaign to get businesses, cities, regions and investors to commit to a zero carbon future.

There are lots of other ways to get involved in COP26, as you’ll see on the website. For example, universities and colleges can also join Race to Zero here. And if you’re a teacher of younger children, you can download school resources on the Together for Our Planet website.

Finally, for individuals there are many excellent campaigning groups doing exciting things in the run up to COP26 both domestically and internationally, and the UK Government is working with lots of them. And if you’re doing work to tackle climate change and want to shout about it, you can apply to be a #OneStepGreener Ambassador online.

A successful COP26 will take all of us playing our part — from world leaders, to heads of businesses, civil society organisations, small businesses, universities and schools, and others. Please do consider what you can do to help.

I hope that future Leeds students will be able to look back at the UK’s role in leading the world to tackle global climate change at COP26 as proudly as I do when looking back at Gleneagles, Loch Erne, Carbis Bay and at many other international summits.

The time to act on climate change is now — let’s all do what we can to help.

Further information

Discover more from Leeds alumni helping to combat the climate crisis in our podcast, blog and features series here.

Find out more about the University of Leeds at COP26.

This blog is part of the Leeds Alumni Voices series. The opinions expressed in these publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the University of Leeds or its members. The designations employed in this publication and the presentation of material therein do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the University of Leeds.



The University of Leeds was founded in 1904, and its origins go back to the nineteenth century with the founding of the Leeds School of Medicine in 1831.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store